Working With Us | Products | Case Studies | FAQ | About Online Media

The Silent Suffering Wife


A heavy kind of silence – one shared by a surprising number of Indian women living abroad – may soon be broken.

Provoked, an unusually controversial Bollywood film starring former Miss World Aishwarya Rai, is the true story of Kiranjit Ahluwalia, an Indian woman living in the U.K., who was brutally abused by her husband for ten years. Cut off from her family back in India, she suffered the abuse for so long because she had nowhere to go. One day after her husband had tormented her yet again, she set him on fire while he was sleeping, not with the intention to kill, but to burn his legs and incapacitate him. He was, however, killed in the fire.

Her story, barring the end, is similar to thousands of Indian women living in the U.K. and the U.S. Many of these women are married off at an early age to ostensibly suitable NRIs (Non Resident Indians) who then find themselves completely alone and dependant on their husbands in an alien land, where they don’t have the right to work. In other cases, fraud is involved. The grooms come to India carrying often-exaggerated tales of their grandeur. They marry, take fat dowries – payments and gifts from the bride’s family – and return to exile with the promise of sending immigration papers for the women, which never arrive.

The women, however, mostly suffer in silence, and they do so for a number of reasons. The stigma of divorce is still a heavy one to bear in India. Also, their aged parents, keen on “settling” their daughters, have spent a life’s savings on their weddings, happy to see their daughters settled with Indian men living abroad and presumably making the kind of living once unheard of in India. These girls are married and sent off with much fanfare to the golden land with the perfect man, who seems to have it all – the job, the house, the 21st Century NRI life. But when, for some, it all comes crashing down, they don’t know where to turn. They are extremely vulnerable to abuse, something that most do not even admit to, but they rarely end up killing their husbands. Instead, they accept the violence as a part of their destiny.

It’s not that these women are poor girls pulled from the countryside. Many are bright, well-educated women who’ve been earning their own living, but yet they fall prey to domestic violence. I know two such women closely, both intelligent and talented, both of whom had fairytale weddings, and the abuse, for both, started soon after they left India. One chose to stay, the other walked away, but they both lost their confidence and self-esteem.

What is disturbing is that the families of most of these women are keen to sweep things under the carpet in the hope that the situation would magically solve itself. They very often have a warped sense of marriage and commitment believing that come what may, the woman must “make it work”. Such twisted ideas only make it harder for women to seek help.

So alarming are the number of those cases that the state’s Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs has compiled a booklet called ‘Information Booklet on Marriages to Overseas Indians’ in which it advises Indian women to take certain precautionary measures before deciding to marry NRIs. The ministry has also announced a plan that would provide some financial assistance to victims of domestic abuse in a foreign land. Non-government assistance agencies like the New York-based Sakhi (meaning “friend” in Hindi) have been started by women who’ve faced violence themselves, and which help others like them collect pieces of their lives and move on.

The U.S., recognizing the problem, grants visas to such women to end their dependency on the husbands but yet, sadly, a lot of women don’t come forth, since getting such visas requires washing of dirty linen in public and proving the crime, which is often hard to do. What is more unfortunate is that unlike Ahluwalia’s husband Deepak, the man often walks away free.

Share  Posted by Gopika Kaul at 3:34 AM | Permalink

<< Back to the Spotlight blog

Gopika Kaul's bio
Email Gopika Kaul

Get Our Weekly Email Newsletter

What We're Reading - Spot-On Books

Hot Spots - What's Hot Around the Web | Promote Your Page Too

Spot-on Main | Pinpoint Persuasion | Spotlight Blog | RSS Subscription | Spot-on Writers | Privacy Policy | Contact Us